MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/22/17
Chris Archer has the highest strikeout percentage on the slate and faces the Toronto Blue Jays at home tonight. Archer has a 29.7 percent strikeout percentage backed by a 13.4 percent swinging strike percentage and 3.33 xFIP this season. He has historically been better at home and that is the case this season as well, as he has struck out 33.1 percent of hitters at home with a 2.96 xFIP compared to 26.5 percent of hitters on the road with a 3.70 xFIP. He does have a somewhat difficult matchup against the Jays, however, as the Jays can be a difficult team to strike out. He is a fine option on this slate if you can afford him, just keep in mind that the slate is pretty deep with pitching upside so paying all the way up will probably not be a necessity to win.
Patrick Corbin offers some savings off the top tier pitchers and has been excellent over the last two months. First, Corbin lowered his fastball usage and began to work in more change-ups to hitters from both sides of the plate. This resulted in improved results on all three of his pitches and he has a 25.4 percent strikeout percentage and 3.25 xFIP over those two months. Now, it appears he has made another adjustment. In his last two starts, against the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros, Corbin has replaced all of his changeups (or nearly all depending on your source) with his slider. The result is that Corbin has utilized his slider over 50 percent of the time in those two starts and he has used his fastball and sinker on the rest of his pitches. The next logical step is to see how Corbin’s slider has fared this season- whether it is a pitch that we should feel good about him throwing so much. The answer is “yes, we should be very happy he is throwing his slider so much.” Corbin has allowed a .190 xwOBA and .151 ISO on his slider this season. It has also been a very effective pitch against righties, limiting them to a .193 xwOBA and .145 ISO. It ranks 6th in whiffs per swing amongst all starting pitchers who have thrown at least 200 sliders this season, trailing only Kluber, Clevinger, Carrasco, Scherzer and Snell. Corbin’s results in his first two starts where he made the slider his primary pitch have been excellent, striking out a combined 25.9 percent of hitters while inducing over 51 percent groundballs and over 31 percent soft contact with just 26.8 percent hard contact. Tonight, he takes on a Mets team that is far less dangerous than the Cubs or Astros teams that he faced in his last two starts. Again, it is debatable if we even need to pay up this high for pitching on this slate, but Corbin appears to be a legitimate ace who is not priced like one.
Ubaldo Jimenez will most likely have Caleb Joseph behind the plate tonight since Castillo caught Wade Miley last night. Jimenez has huge splits and has been a much better pitcher when Joseph is his catcher. In 68.2 innings with Joseph, Jimenez has struck out 76 hitters with 26 walks for a 2.92 K/BB ratio. In 51.1 innings with Castillo, Jimenez has struck out 37 hitters with 26 walks for a 1.42 K/BB ratio. He is susceptible to the home run with both catchers, but clearly has more upside with Joseph behind the plate. He is most vulnerable to left-handed power and speed. The Athletics have a couple of left-handed hitters that can do damage in Lowrie, Joyce and Olson but they do not have much in the way of left-handed speed. Jimenez dominated the Athletics with 11 strikeouts in his last meeting against them. As always, he is a risky option but he does have a nice ceiling in this matchup.
Danny Duffy is striking out less hitters this season, but he is also doing a better job of limiting the hard contact against him than he did last season. His decrease in strikeouts made it hard to justify rostering him at elevated price points this season, but that is not the case today as he is just $7,600 against the Rockies in Kansas City. As we know, the Rockies struggle mightily away from Coors Field. Duffy’s 21 percent strikeout percentage and 11.5 swinging strike percentage go from being underwhelming at an expensive price tag to being very appealing for a mid-tier arm in a friendly matchup.
Lance Lynn has pitched very well for the last month and a half, recording a .294 xwOBA since the start of July. His strikeout numbers have fluctuated depending on matchup, but he has a very nice matchup tonight against the Padres. Lynn is borderline elite against right-handed hitters, allowing a .241 xwOBA since the start of July and striking out 25.7 percent of righties that he has faced this season. He tends to struggle against lefties, but the Padres do not have many lefties for us to worry about. Their projected lineup has three lefties plus the pitcher, and none of the lefties hit for much power. As long as he can keep the ball in the park against Asuaje, Solarte and Spangenberg, he should be able to more than make up for any hits they get by racking up strikeouts against the righties in the lineup. He may be a popular option in this matchup against the Padres but it is certainly a very good spot for him.
Ricky Nolasco is an appealing tournament option at the bottom of the pricing spectrum as he faces the Texas Rangers in Anaheim. The Rangers have been terrible on the road this season and Nolasco does have the ability to get strikeouts in good matchups. Joey Gallo is not expected to be in the lineup for the Rangers and, while that takes a 30+ percent strikeout rate out, it also eliminates one of their most dangerous home run hitters- and when Nolasco struggles it is usually with the long ball. Nolasco has allowed 1.48 home runs per nine innings at home this season compared to 2.48 on the road. There are enough strikeouts in the Texas lineup that Nolasco should be able to put together a nice outing for his price as long as he keeps the one or two home runs that he allows to solo shots.
Anthony Rizzo faces Homer Bailey in Cincinnati tonight. Bailey has been very good at times this season and he has also been very bad at times. Rizzo has been one of the best hitters in baseball this season and he gets the advantage in this matchup. Rizzo has a .376 wOBA and .248 ISO against righties this season while Bailey has struck out just 15 percent of lefties and allowed 1.37 home runs per nine innings.
Joey Votto, the first baseman opposite Rizzo, is an appealing option as well against John Lackey. Lackey was lucky to get the results that he did in his last meeting with the Reds and now he has to face them in Great American Ballpark. He has allowed 2.43 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season and Votto has recorded a .276 ISO and .443 wOBA against righties. His hard contact percentage is up 6 percent from his season average over the last 14 days.
Jay Bruce will face soft-tossing righty Doug Fister. Fister is decent against righties and manages to limit their hard contact. That is not the case against lefties. He has allowed 41.9 percent hard contact with just 9.5 percent soft contact to lefties this season en route to allowing 1.69 home runs per nine innings. Bruce has plenty of power, posting a .287 ISO against righties this season, and should be able to take advantage of Fister’s pitch-to-contact approach.
Yonder Alonso had a big game last night and he gets another nice matchup tonight against Lucas Sims in Atlanta. Sims is a capable young pitcher for the Braves, but he allows more flyballs than groundballs and that is not a recipe for success against powerful lefties in Suntrust Park. Sims has allowed just shy of 40 percent flyballs with 25 percent line drives and 35.7 percent groundballs to lefties in his limited time with the Braves this season. He also allowed more flyballs than groundballs in the minor leagues. Alonso has made adjustments this season to hit the ball in the air more and it has led to a spike in his production as he has a .370 wOBA and .223 ISO against righties this season. His hard-hit percentage is up from his season average of 34 percent to 50 percent over the last 14 days and his average distance is up from 225 feet to 241 feet. He is a good bet for a home run off Sims tonight.
Billy Hamilton is a strong play whenever he is in a prime stolen base matchup and that is the case tonight against John Lackey, who is not particularly adept at holding base runners. Hamilton is rarely popular since people prefer to target home runs than stolen bases, but Lackey has struggled against lefties this season and, if Hamilton reaches base with nobody ahead of him, there is a good chance he finishes the inning with a home run worth of points.
Scott Schebler is another left-handed bat from the Reds lineup that should have success against Lackey. Schebler returned from the disabled list last weekend and tends to go overlooked in tournaments as he hits near the bottom of the order. He has plenty of power, however, as he hasa .231 ISO to go along with his .356 wOBA against right-handed pitching this season. He is always one of my favorite tournament plays when I need a value outfield bat and he is facing a righty that gives up home runs to lefties.
Lucas Duda’s price refuses to climb above the $4,000 mark on DraftKings. He faces right-hander Chris Rowley tonight in Tampa. While it is not the ideal hitting environment, there is just too much upside to ignore in a hitter with a .261 ISO against right-handed pitching this season who is facing a righty that pitches to contact and does not generate many swings and misses. There is a lot of opportunity cost at first base today so, if you are forced to pay down, it needs to be for someone with legitimate upside like Duda.
Ozzie Albies is projected to be atop the Braves’ lineup against left-hander Marco Gonzales. Gonzales has struggled in his brief time in the big leagues and Albies has been considerably better against left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching in his time in the minors and so far with the Braves. If he does lead off, he makes for a strong value play at a position with less opportunity cost than some others.
Cincinnati Reds/Chicago Cubs- Both sides of this game are very appealing tournaments stacks as they are playing in a great ballpark. The Cubs face a boom or bust pitcher in Homer Bailey and the Reds face a pitcher who struggles with speed and left-handed power- two things that the Reds have plenty of. Mixing and matching hitters from both teams to make a full game stack is a very strong strategy tonight.
Minnesota Twins- The Twins are facing right-handed pitching prospect Lucas Giolito. Some of the shine has worn off Giolito this season as he has a 4.43 FIP and has allowed 1.19 home runs per nine innings at AAA this season. The Twins get a ballpark boost hitting at Guaranteed Rate Field and they also will benefit from the atrocious bullpen that waits to relieve Giolito. These teams played a double header yesterday so the Chicago bullpen is in even worse shape than usual. Mike Pelfrey has not been used in three days, so it is likely that he is the long man behind Giolito. His biggest weaknesses are left-handed power and speed and the Twins have plenty of both of those. This has the potential to be a game where the Twins get to Giolito early and then pile on runs against Pelfrey while he is thrown out on the mound to eat innings regardless of results.
St. Louis Cardinals- I usually do not like to pick on Clayton Richard, but he has struggled with right-handed power outside of San Diego, allowing 1.75 home runs per nine innings. He will be pitching at Busch Stadium tonight and the Cardinals have plenty of right-handed power in their lineup. Most of the St. Louis hitters have been hitting well of late and they tend to be a very streaky team at the plate. They are likely to go overlooked tonight, but offer plenty of upside against Richard and the Padres.